Endorsing the sustainable development goals

I believe that if back in 2016 all countries, including Malta, agreed on certain targets by 2030, these SDGs should become more central in the policy-making mechanisms at the local, regional, and national levels

During these last few years and decades, the EU has been leading the way on tackling global climate change. Through the Fit for 55 European climate law, there is a common understanding that tackling these environmental issues would lead to more sustainable living and a better quality of life, now and in the future.

Our European Parliament Group, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), has been leading on issues like the EU emissions trading system, and the creation of a fund to support the most affected citizens and businesses in the fight against climate change. As part of the Fit for 55 legislative packages, we supported the creation of a carbon border adjustment mechanism to tackle emissions outside the EU, and the reduction of emissions from automotive, aviation and maritime transport, buildings, agriculture, and waste.

These are just a few of the issues that the S&D pushed forward in the European Parliament (EP) to make sure that the EU continues to lead for the benefit of its European citizens and beyond. As a European Parliamentarian (MEP), I made sure that the Maltese perspective was always put on the agenda during these important EU legislative discussions, especially on issues related to new energy efficiency standards required on new and existing buildings in Malta and Gozo, to name just a few.

We have all witnessed the effect of the pandemic, Ukraine-Russia war, the increase in the cost of living on global achievements in the fight against development injustices around the world.

And as we all know, time is not in our favour.

Although the EU should continue to lead in tackling climate change through several comprehensive legislative initiatives, I believe it is about time for all the European institutions, particularly the European Commission, to better align our legislative initiatives with the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) agreed between all countries around the world at a historic UN Summit back in 2016.

Although climate change is of paramount importance for humanity due to its effects on all aspects of our European lifestyles, I believe that we cannot have a sustainable environment without taking a holistic societal and individuals’ view.

To name just a few, apart from the climate action SDG, there are SDGs related to poverty reduction, hunger, health and well-being, education, and gender equality.  There are also UN SDGs that focus on clean water, affordable energy, work and economic growth, the industry, and reduction in inequalities.

Tackling these issues is difficult and requires effective leadership across the board, including in the European Parliament and all other European institutions. Ahead of the high-level UN meetings to be held in July and September this year, it is important to take stock of what we achieved as an EU and members states, and make sure that we tackle where we are falling short of our 2030 targets.

With reference to a recent Eurostat dataset, over the past five years, it is of great satisfaction to see that the EU made significant progress towards ensuring decent work and economic growth, reducing poverty, while improving of gender equality which contribute toward more balanced and productive workplaces.

There was also good progress toward reducing inequalities, ensuring quality education, and fostering peace and personal security within the EU’s territory. On top of these, there was positive progress on improving access to justice and trust in institutions that is so important to maintain trust between different stakeholders.

The EU has also seen observable progress toward the goals of health and well-being despite the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and on innovation and infrastructure through significant investments in different areas.

Although it is so positive to achieve such significant progress so far, the data clearly showed that the EU lacked significant progress in important areas related to responsible consumption and production, the creation of sustainable cities, and communities, the reduction of zero hunger, the provision of clean water, sanitation, and affordable and clean energy SDGs.

It is this lack of progress which we as European Parliamentarians should prioritise in collaboration with the European Commission, and the European Council for a comprehensive European and national governments’ decisive action of these SDGs.

In continuation of this view, I believe that if back in 2016 all countries, including Malta, agreed on certain targets by 2030, these SDGs should become more central in the policy-making mechanisms at the local, regional, and national levels.

As a country, we as Maltese and Europeans, have the responsibility in achieving these targets. These last few years saw significant progress on different SDG areas. Overall, the data shows that Malta was ahead of EU averages in its performance on several SDGs, including the SDG related to partnerships for the goals. Moreover, it is of great satisfaction in seeing that the country has made progress towards SDGs related to zero hunger reduction, better food security, improvement of nutrition and in the promotion of sustainable agriculture. However, we should continue pushing forward, and tackling areas like the quality of our institutions, governance, innovation, research, and infrastructure which need more political will from all interested local stakeholders.

Aligning 17 SDG targets with actual policy measures is ambitious, let alone delivering and executing them at the global, European, national and the local levels. The changes that we all witnessed during these last few years have challenged all the existing political priorities to the very core.

As a result, we all experienced a slowing global progress in achieving these SDG targets. We all know that the challenges have been significant and very difficult for every country, including for Malta and Gozo. However, if we Maltese and Europeans really want to make a difference in our quality of life, we need a paradigm shift beyond the usual thinking around economic growth.

The composition of the EU makes it very possible for each member state and region to learn from each other, align their local and national policies with these SDG targets, continue to measure their progress, and make sure that their governance structures reflect the development priorities and goals that all the Europeans should be aiming for in the years to come.